Today is David Tennant’s 46th birthday. The voice actor, snazzy dresser, and general all-round good guy has starred in several high-profile roles including Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Kilgrave (Murder Corpse was taken) in Jessica Jones. But Tennant is perhaps best known for his role as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who. To celebrate his birthday, we’re looking at ten of the Tenth Doctor’s best moments.
10. Story’s End
The Doctor always has a certain arrogance about him. It usually comes from his vast experience and fathomless knowledge. But when Eleven tells Ten that their journey will end in blood and fire on Trenzalore, Ten decries their destiny. To him, it’s not how their tale will end. Of course, it ultimately seems as though even fate doesn’t stop the Doctor from being right.
For a sci-fi show, Doctor Who certainly has a lot of unexpected adventures. When the Doctor channelled the collective psychic energy of an entire planet, he basically became Jesus for a few minutes. While the Doctor usually operates in the background, all of humanity learned of his existence after the Master ruled Earth. It’s a tough act to do, but Tennant is able to pull off “I can tear apart your atoms” with the right touch of benevolence.
8. River Song
There’s long distance relationships, “it’s complicated” relationships, and then there’s River Song and the Doctor. Their timelines are back to front – when Ten first meets River, she knows all about him, but he has never met her. So she tells him something deeply personal in Time Lord culture – his real name. When River dies, he’s left wondering exactly what sort of relationship they have in his future and her past.
7. The Doctor’s Doctor
Multi-Doctor stories exist somewhere between the less horrifying fan fictions and more amusing episodes. “The Day of the Doctor” aside, most stories are usually not as serious as the rest of the series. The 2007 Children in Need special “Time Crash” saw Ten meet Five as the old Doctor crashes into the TARDIS of the new one. Possibly slipping slightly from fiction and into reality, Ten reveals how many of Five’s traits he inherited such as running shoes and a squeaky shouting voice. All that aside, Ten thinks of his past self not as a Doctor but his Doctor.
6. Six Words
There was a saying in the Time War: “First thing you notice about the Doctor of War is that he is unarmed. For many, it’s also the last.” Once upon a time, Harriet Jones was an ally to our favourite alien, but she made the mistake of breaking his rules. Not one to let even his companions off the hook, a freshly regenerated Ten turns to his assistant. Having awoken the world to aliens and heading to Britain’s ‘golden age’, it takes Ten just six words to undo all of Harriet’s hard work – “Don’t you think she looks tired?”
5. Time Lord Victorious
One thing that has always shackled the Doctor are the Laws of Time – he can’t create any significant changes in how events turn out. That is until Ten stops caring. Forced to watch people die because their deaths are ‘fixed points’, Ten snaps. Tennant switches from friendly, eccentric uncle to I will smite all that displeases me in a tense minute. Only the suicide of his short-term companion, Adelaide will undo the changes he made to the timeline and breaks his downward spiral before the changes became permanent.
Doctors War, Nine, Ten, and Eleven thought of themselves as the last Time Lords after the Time War. So when Ten finds himself a father again, it takes a while to warm up to Jenny. Of course, when she is killed, Ten is pushed to the brink. Always the angriest Doctor, he sets the same gun against her killer’s head. Despite blowing up planets more often than he should, Tennant shows plenty of restrained anger as the murder is called off. There are worse ways to start a new civilisation than basing one off the Doctor’s restraint.
3. Team Effort
Flying in the TARDIS always calls for veteran-level sea legs. According to the pilot, it is due to the old Type 40s requiring six pilots (not that River Song ever flew it badly). In “Journey’s End“, past and present companions come together to help the Doctor drag Earth back to the Solar System. Tennant shows his exuberant energy as the TARDIS is properly flown for the first time. Even pulling the entire planet behind it, there’s nary a bump.
Age gap aside (885 years, but who’s counting) the Doctor and Rose made for a great couple – he’s emotionally stunted, she’s kick-ass. So when she gets stuck in a parallel universe, Ten breaks a few rules to say his farewells. Even though Rose would eventually return, it’s a tearful parting. Both shed quite a few tears, and according to Doctor Who Confidential (a cancelled behind-the-scenes partner show), the tears didn’t stop with the cameras. The show reported that David Tennant and Billie Piper needed a minute together to recover from the emotional scene.
Regeneration is a double-edged sword. Despite letting a Time Lord cheat death, it is only in the physical sense that they survive. What makes up their personality is lost in the transition. Having already cheated death once before when he created the meta-crisis Doctor, Ten is terrified of moving on. Alone for the first time, his regeneration is a reluctant process that he tries to fight. Matt Smith’s first appearance is a cruel dichotomy to Tennant’s tearful departure.